Best home theater upgrades from $20 to $2,500 – CNET
Best upgrades for the money
Channel Master Flatenna ($20)
Google Chromecast ($35)
Chromecast Audio ($35)
Clearaudio Clever Clamp ($30)
Roku Streaming Stick 2017 ($50)
Amazon Echo Dot ($50)
Google Home Mini ($49)
Samsung BD-J5900 ($89)
Logitech Harmony Companion Control ($150)
Vizio SB-3621n-E8 ($138)
Apple TV ($150)
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR ($130/pair)
Elac Debut 2.0 6.2 ($299/pair)
Xbox One S ($299)
Yamaha YAS-207 ($269)
Vizio SB4551-D5 ($400)
Pioneer SP-SB23W ($400)
Sony STR-DN1080 ($499)
Samsung HW-K950 ($1,300)
Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 ($2,500)
Whether it’s antennas, speakers, sound bars, AV receivers or streamers, these are the best products to enhance your TV, music and movie experience. We’ve generally ordered them from the cheapest (a $20 antenna) to the most expensive. Game on!
Whether you’re cutting cable or not, the dirt-cheap Channel Master Flatenna offers a wealth of entertainment with no ongoing fees. Stick it on your window and plug the captive cable into your tuner and you’ll be watching daytime soaps in an instant.
Cutting the cord? You can watch plenty of shows and movies by adding an inexpensive streamer such as the Chromecast to the back of your TV. Fire up the “Netflix” app on your phone, for example, press the TV-shaped “Cast” button and open your favorite beverage — no cable subscription required!
The Chromecast Audio is more than just the aural equivalent of the original Chromecast, it also enables you to stream music around your house. It’s the cheapest and best way to get into multiroom music.
Also known as the Souther Clever Clamp, this $30/£25 accessory is a virtual must-have for lovers of vinyl records. If you ever bought a second-hand record you’ll know of the perils of “warping.” Unlike record weights this little plastic gadget uses friction to hold the record onto the platter — keeping it from moving and causing distortion — and it can be used for almost any (non-Rega) turntable.
Roku’s latest Streaming Stick is the company’s cheapest device ever to build voice search into the remote and it offers headphone listening through your mobile device.
With an Echo Dot the home theater of the future is finally a possibility. Lower the shades, turn on your receiver, fire up Netflix and dim the lights all by saying “Alexa, play a movie.”
While the Amazon Echo Dot has been around longer, the Home Mini is a plucky little device. This voice assistant not only looks nicer than its rival, but it also sounds better, meaning you can use the speaker for background listening.
While streaming can bring you more content than you could ever possibly watch, it’s not always great for watching something specific. Some movies that are available on Blu-ray or DVD may never be available through the cloud. Having a machine that can play back a physical library is a must for every home theater, and for under $100, the Samsung BD-J5900 does almost everything you need. It even streams.
At $150, the Companion will let you fire up your TV, receiver and TiVo box with one button press — and maybe dim the lights as well — and it’s one of the easiest universal remotes to program, too.
Offering insane value for money the Vizio SB-3621 system offers a separate subwoofer for a bigger sound than anything else near the price. It also looks a lot more expensive than it is which is a bonus
The Apple TV offers one of the best onscreen interfaces and is a definite upgrade from the Chromecast. It offers a wide selection of apps and also offers a library of games. Who needs a Nintendo Switch anyway?
The SP-BS22-LR speaker has consistently earned raves for its sound, and is a definite step up from a sound bar. Just add a decent budget receiver and feel those explosions.
With an improved look and clearer sound, the Debut 2.0 is even better for people looking to dive into the audiophile world. And at only $299 it’s cheaper than a receiver or a turntable. The Elac Debut 2.0 6.2 is an excellent value.
If you’re going to buy one console for its AV smarts, let it be the Xbox One S. It offers home theater integration (HDMI-in), a digital assistant (Cortana) and a 4K Blu-ray drive. That, and games, too!
The Yamaha YAS-207 is a superb sound bar that offers Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity. Sound quality is top rate and the system is super easy to set up and use.
If you’re serious about movies, a real surround-sound system is the way to go. Nothing captures the feeling of immersion like ambient effects from actual rear speakers. This Vizio is one of the most affordable out there, and it actually sounds good.
One of our favorite sound bars at any price, and also designed by the ubiquitous Andrew Jones, the SP-SB23W will capture every cry and bone-rending crunch of play. Plus you can stream your music over Bluetooth to it.
The Sony STR-DN1080 is a talented all-rounder offering excellent home theater and music performance. It’s the best value-for-money receiver of the last 12 months.
Got a fancy new TV for watching the latest blockbuster? The Samsung HW-K950 is one of the best sound bars you can get, with Atmos playback and Wi-Fi music streaming.
The massive Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 5.1 system ain’t cheap, but paired with a good receiver it’ll pound your movie session into happy submission.